Last week, the Navy released the minutes of the Admiral’s Mast disciplinary hearings held late last year in connection with the 2020 fire aboard the amphibious assault ship Bonhomme Richard.
The amphib caught fire while under maintenance in San Diego in July 2020 and burned for several days, forcing the Navy to later sell the warship for scrap and reform how the service handles fire hazards while ships are in the yards.
Bonhomme Richard’s commanding officer at the time, Captain Gregory Thoroman, received a written reprimand and $5,000 salary forfeiture at his December 2021 mast hearing, which was called by the Chief of Fleet American Pacific, Admiral Samuel Paparo.
Thoroman was found guilty of violating Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice by failing “in absolute responsibility for the safety, welfare and efficiency of the ship,” according to the heavily redacted records.
The other senior enlisted officers and sailors who had mast hearings were also found guilty of violating section 92, disobeying an order or regulation.
Thoroman’s second-in-command at the time, Captain David M. Ray, also received a written reprimand and a $5,000 fine for failing to ensure that the crew of the Bonhomme Richard understood and complied with the firefighting safety precautions aboard the ship, and for failing to ensure the command was briefed on the ship’s survivability, records show.
The ship’s senior command chief at the time, Master Chief Damage Controlman Jose Hernandez Jr., received a written reprimand for failing to “actively teach, enforce, and enforce standards” and for failing negligently advising Thoroman “on matters relating to the welfare, use and training of seamen.
Bonhomme Richard’s technical director, a damage control assistant and a damage control officer were also taken to the mast, although their names are redacted in the records made public.
Each received a written reprimand for their infractions.
The release of the Admiral’s Mast records comes about two months after a military judge acquitted a young enlisted sailor the Navy had accused of starting the Bonhomme Richard fire.
Ryan Sawyer Mays’ acquittal in September came after a nine-day trial in which no physical evidence linking Mays to the fire was presented. His defense attorneys also questioned the credibility of a key witness.
The Navy announced in July that it had disciplined more than two dozen service members for their role in the fire and the cascade of system failures that allowed the ship to burn for several days.
Chief among the actions was a letter of censure issued by Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro against the now-retired vice admiral. Richard Brown, who was serving as commander of the naval surface forces when the fire has occurred.
In addition, Paparo sent letters of instruction to Rear Admiral Scott Brown, director of fleet maintenance Pacific Fleet, and Rear Admiral Eric Ver Hage, commander of the Navy Regional Maintenance Center.
Geoff is a senior reporter for the Military Times, specializing in the navy. He has covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was recently a reporter for the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes all kinds of advice at email@example.com.